Dogs are born to be active, and depriving your pooch of necessary exercise can lead to serious health problems. Daily activities and playtime will keep your pooch mentally stimulated and prevent behavioral problems associated with boredom and depression.
Why turn your days into exercise for the dog?
Exercise is an absolute necessity for the dog. You're probably already aware of the dangers of obesity and arthritis, all of which are (at least partially) associated with the lack of activity in the dog's life. Another key reason to increase the amount of exercise your pooch goes through is boredom and apathy, which can lead to depression.
Recently, more studies have came out showing how easy it is for dogs to get bored and most pet owners won't even know it. It's difficult to tell when your pooch is bored, but the risks of that are substantial, usually leading to dog's brain shrinkage. After reviewing scientific literature, in her essay animal welfare professor Charlotte Burn explains how important it is to stimulate a dog every single day with exercise and playtime (source):
“It is true suffering, especially when prolonged and inescapable, as happens on modern farms. Stimulation for animals, like humans, is not a luxury but a necessity.”
These findings are not new, however. There have been a ton of previous studies (study, study, study, study) with animal models, including chimpanzees, rats, pigs, rabbits, cats and dogs – all of them suggested the dangers of lack of daily exercise and its detriment on the dog's mental state.
Spring is already here, so there's no excuse to avoid exercising your dog. And even if you don’t have a lot of time to provide different exercises for your Fido, there are a few ways to turn your own daily activities into exercise for your dog. Here are seven ways to include more mental stimulation and training for your pooch, every single day.
7 Ways to Turn Daily Activities Into Exercise for Your Dog
Extend Your Daily Walks
If taking longer walks with your dog isn’t on your list of daily activities already, now is a great time to start as the weather continues to improve. Those 5 minute pee walks won't do. Longer walks with your dog have many benefits for him and if you walk him for even 15-20 minutes longer than usual, it's likely to be plenty.
If you live in a city and you take your dog for a walk every day so he can go to the bathroom, don’t rush back home immediately. Take some time and walk around the block. Walking your dog for 30 minutes a day is the definition of an “active dog.” Moreover, there are tons of benefits for you too, according to health scientists.
Find a Training Partner in Your Dog
If you're an active person training daily or every other day, then why not include your dog in these activities? There are many different sports you can do with your pooch. Most of these things such as jogging you're likely doing already by yourself, or at least are aware of them.
Bear in mind that a dog may need a little training for any new type of exercise, even if it's something simple like jogging. Leash pulling and avoidance are the two common culprits, but nothing that a little bit of leash training using a dog training leash won't fix.
Cycling with dogs has become very popular too. Someone who lives in Austin, TX I see people on bikes with dogs next to them all the time, and nothing will tire your pooch out more than this. Just make sure to maintain a good pace, and consider using a special dog leash made specifically for cycling with dogs.
Here's something you haven't thought of: rollerblading. It's another fun activity you can do with your dog to spice up your exercise routine. Something else to consider is yoga, or what's now very popular – Doga. Don't discount it before you actually try it. It may not exercise your dog as much as running, but it's better than sleeping at home.
Doggy Paddle Is What You're Missing
Exercise can be fun if you make it so, and one of the perfect examples is a day at the beach or by the lake. This may not be something you're able to do on a daily basis, but including it among your weekly to do list, if you live somewhere near water, will be tremendously healthy and fun for the dog.
In fact, researchers have found that swimming is more beneficial to dogs than regular walking or many other types of exercise. The study initially focused on hydrotherapy for dogs suffering from injuries and arthritis, but ended up concluding that swimming in general will benefit any dog, whether it's healthy or suffering from those conditions.
Practice safety and introduce your dog to water slowly. There are also benefits to teaching your dog about swimming as soon as you can (while he's still a puppy). If it's your first time, a quiet place with little people around and shallow(er) water is better. You may even consider using a doggy life jacket the first few times if the water is deep.
Do not force your dog into water, which may result in your dog developing a phobia for swimming. Let him go in the water at his own pace and encourage him verbally to go a bit further when you see that he is comfortable.
You can also go diving or boating with your Fido using dog water ramps, or kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding, to name just a few activities you can do when you take your dog to the beach or the lake. And of course if you have a swimming pool at home, encourage your dog to swim as often as possible.
Make Your Dog Work for Food
Feeding your dog is one of those everyday activities that we don’t even think about when we consider exercise. However, there are ways to make your dog do some mental work before he gets his food or treats, and this has been scientifically proven to benefit dogs in more than one way.
Treat-dispensing dog toys like the popular KONG ones is the easiest way to keep your pooch engaging, mentally stimulated and somewhat active as he works for his food. In fact, a 2006 study found how these types of toys decrease boredom in dogs. Other options like chew toys can provide similar benefits. For example, a 2004 study found that Nylabones keep dogs engaged the longest when compared to other types of toys.
Other options are available, too. Try hide and seek – take some of your pet's favorite treats and hide them around your house. That will make your dog track them down and this process will certainly provide some fun and rewarding exercise. Scientific American wrote about how nose work will keep your dog healthier.
A Little Bit of Stair-Running
For the lazy pet owners, this could be the easiest way to exercise a dog properly every single day. You don’t have to run on the stairs yourself. Once you taught your pooch how to use stairs, you only need to stand at the top and encourage your dog up and down.
Throw one of the toys down to your dog. Once he catches it, call him so he brings the toy to you. Going up and down the stairs is a great form of exercise for a canine because it engages numerous muscles that don’t usually get worked on during a walk. It's safe and beneficial for dogs long as you keep it reasonable, according to Banfield veterinarians.
If you don't have the stairs at home, and do not have the time or opportunity to go for an extended walk with your pooch, then treadmill can be the best compromise but will require an investment. There are special dog treadmills out there that are designed specifically to exercise both healthy and injured canines, or those suffering from arthritis.
Socializing Can Also Be an Exercise
Socialization is important for dogs and there are numerous ways you can do this. Dog park where your pooch can hang out with other dogs and people is the most popular way to keep your Fido socialized. This will usually involve a lot of running and playing as well.
You can get creative and make your own socialization opportunities. If you have a partner, family or friends that are also dog owners, arrange regular play dates that will keep your dogs active and social at the same time. Pair those play dates with some of the above mentioned training and exercise opportunities for added benefits.
Another thing you can do is go shopping with your dog to pet-friendly stores, like Home Depot and most local pet shops. Walk with your dog through the aisles and let him sniff around and try out some toys he might like (if the store allows this).
Reinvent Older Games
Having a dog is fun for many reasons, but the fact that you can always find a partner to play some games with is probably the greatest benefit of having a pooch. In fact, this is one of the reasons why scientists are saying dogs are beneficial for people, and can even make people feel better on a daily basis.
Even though all games are good for your dog, both mentally and physically, some of them are better if you want your dog to get a good exercise as well. You can also add some twists to older games you've played before to challenge your pet's brain, such as pairing the game of fetch with hide-and-seek.
In terms of proven games a dog will love, tug of war is one of the most physically demanding games for your pooch. You can play it indoors. Switch the game of fetch with balls or sticks to Frisbee to add something different. There are many more games you can play with your canine that will provide him with enough exercise for the day.
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